Friday, February 17, 2012


St. Canute IV

Born 1042 Denmark
Died July 10, 1086 Odense

Canonized April 19, 1101

Feast day: January 19
Patron of Denmark
1042 - 1086

Also spelled CNUT.

Martyr and King of Denmark, date of birth uncertain; d. 10 July 1086, the third of the thirteen natural sons of Sweyn II surnamed Estridsen. Elected king on the death of his brother Harold about 1080, he waged war on his barbarous enemies and brought Courland and Livonia to the faith. Having married Eltha, daughter of Robert, Count of Flanders, he had a son Charles, surnamed the good. He was a strong ruler, as is proved by his stern dealing with the pirate Eigill of Bornholm. The happiness of his people and the interests of the Church were the objects he had most at heart. To the cathedral of Roskilde, still the royal burying-place, he gave his own diadem. His austerity was equalled by his assiduity in prayer. An expedition to England, in favour of the Saxons against William the Conqueror, planned by him in 1085, failed through the treachery of his brother Olaf. His people having revolted on account of the cruelties of certain tax-collectors, Canute retired to the island of Funen. There, in the church of St. Alban, after due preparation for death, the king, his brother Benedict, and seventeen others were surrounded and slain, 10 July, 1086. His feast is 19 January, translation, 10 July; his emblems, a lance or arrows, in memory of the manner of his death.St. Canute IV

Canute IV, later known as Canute the Holy or Canute the Saint (Danish: Knud IV den Hellige or Sankt Knud), (1042 – July 10, 1086) was King of Denmark from 1080 until 1086. Canute was an ambitious king who sought to strengthen the Danish monarchy, devotedly supported the Roman Catholic Church, and had designs on the English throne. Slain by rebels in 1086, he was the first Dane to be canonized. He was recognized by the Roman Catholic Church as patron saint of Denmark in 1101, under the name of San Canuto

Canute was born 1042, as one of the many illegitimate sons of Sweyn II Estridsson. He is first noted as a member of Sweyn's 1069 raid of England, and the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle reports that Canute was one of the leaders of another raid against England in 1075. When returning from England in 1075, the Danish fleet stopped in the County of Flanders. Because of its hostility towards William I of England, Flanders was a natural ally for the Danes. He also led successful campaigns to Sember and Ester, according to skald Kálfr Mánason.

The Murder of Canute
" by Christian Albrecht von Benzon (1843)."

When Sweyn died, Canute's brother Harald III was elected King, and as Canute went into exile in Sweden, he was possibly involved in the active opposition to Harald. In 1080, Canute succeeded Harald to the throne of Denmark. On his accession, he married Adela, daughter of Count Robert I of Flanders. She bore him one son, Karl (a name uncommon in Denmark) in 1084, and twin daughters Cæcilia (who married Erik Jarl) and Ingerid, born shortly before his death ( 1085/86)

Canute quickly proved himself to be a highly ambitious king as well as a devout one. He enhanced the power position of the church, and demanded austere observation of church holidays.He gave large gifts to the churches in Dalby, Odense, Roskilde, and Viborg, and especially to Lund. Ever a champion of the Church, he sought to enforce the collection of tithes. His aggrandizement of the church served to create a powerful ally, who in turn supported Canute's power position.

In May 1085, Canute wrote a letter of donation to Lund Cathedral which was under construction, granting it large tracts of lands in Scania, Zealand, and Amager. He founded Lund Cathedral School at the same time.Canute had gathered the land largely as pay for the pardon of lawless subjects. The clerics at Lund got extended prerogatives of the land, being able to tax and fine the peasantry there. However, Knud kept his universal royal rights to pardon the lawless, fine subjects who failed to answer his leding call to war, and demand transportation for his retinue.

His reign was marked by vigorous attempts to increase royal power in Denmark, by stifling the nobles and keeping them to the word of the law.Canute issued edicts arrogating to himself the ownership of common land, the right to the goods from shipwrecks, and the right to inherit the possessions of foreigners and kinless folk. He also issued laws to protect freed thralls as well as foreign clerics and merchants.These policies led to discontent among his subjects, who were unaccustomed to a king who claimed such powers and who interfered in their daily lives.
But Canute's ambitions were not purely domestic. As the grandnephew of Canute the Great, who ruled England, Denmark and Norway until 1035, Canute considered the crown of England to be rightfully his. He therefore regarded William I of England as a usurper. In 1085, with the support of his father-in-law Count Robert and Olaf III of Norway, Canute planned an invasion of England and called his fleet in leding at the Limfjord.The fleet never set sail, as Canute was preoccupied in Schleswig due to the potential threat of Henry IV, Holy Roman Emperor, with whom both Denmark and Flanders were on unfriendly terms. Canute feared the invasion of Henry, whose enemy Rudolf of Rheinfelden had sought refuge in Denmark.

The warriors of the fleet, mostly made up of peasants who needed to be home for the harvest season, got weary of waiting, and elected Canute's brother Olaf (the later Olaf I of Denmark) to argue their case. This raised the suspicion of Canute, who had Olaf arrested and sent to Flanders. The leding was eventually dispersed and the peasants tended to their harvests,but Canute intended to reassemble within a year.

Before the fleet could reassemble, a peasant revolt broke out in Vendsyssel, where Canute was staying, in early 1086. Canute first fled to Schleswig, and eventually to Odense. On July 10, 1086, Canute and his men took refuge inside the wooden St. Alban's Priory in Odense. The rebels stormed into the church and slew Canute, along with his brother Benedict and seventeen of their followers, before the altar. According to chronicler Ælnoth of Canterbury, Canute died following a lance thrust in the flank.He was succeeded by Olaf as Olaf I of Denmark.

King Canute's grave at Odense Cathedral
Because of his martyrdom and advocacy of the Church, Canute quickly began to be considered a saint. Under the reign of Olaf, Denmark suffered from crop failure, which was seen as divine retribution for the sacrilege killing of Canute. Miracles were soon reported as taking place at his grave,[citation needed] and his canonization was already being sought during the reign of Olaf.

On April 19, 1101, persuaded by the envoys from Eric III of Denmark, Pope Paschal II confirmed the "cult of Canute" that had arisen, and King Canute IV was canonized as a saint under the name San Canuto. He was the first Dane to be canonized.19 January is recognised by the Catholic Church as his feast day. In Sweden and Finland he is historically, however, partially associated with St. Knut's Day, which in reality was celebrated in the memory of the death of his nephew, Canute Lavard.

In 1300, his remains and those of his brother Benedict were interred in Saint Canute's Cathedral, built in his honour, where his remains are on display

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